24,000 died of cold last winter
There were 24,000 deaths linked to cold weather last winter, new figures show.
Almost 20,000 of the “excess winter deaths” were among people over the age of 75, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
The overall figure was down on the previous winter when there were an estimated 26,800 excess deaths in England and Wales.
There were more cold weather-related deaths in women than men.
The ONS said excess winter mortality for 2011/12 was highest in London.
The ONS said mortality peaked in February, which is likely to be related to bouts of flu and cold temperatures.
Ellen Mason, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Frost, ice and snow may look picture-perfect but it doesn’t paint such a pretty picture for the health of heart patients.
“During the winter months, we see an increase in the number of deaths of people with heart disease, so it’s imperative that people wrap up warm or stay indoors when the weather is bitterly cold.
“Your blood pressure and your heart rate can increase as your body tries to keep the heat in. If you have underlying heart disease, your risk of a heart attack can also rise. So give your heart a helping hand with lots of warm clothes and a heated house.”
A Friends of the Earth spokesman said: “It is a national disgrace that millions of our homes are so poorly insulated that people living in them struggle with their energy bills.
“Living in a cold home has a dreadful impact on our health - and tragically thousands of older people die every year as a result.
“The government must take action to tackle this home-made humanitarian disaster by ensuring we all have warm and energy- efficient homes which are cheaper to heat. This will cut fuel bills, save lives and help the UK meet its climate change goals.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “We’re pleased to see there was an overall reduction in excess winter deaths; however, there is no room for complacency.
“We have allocated £20 million to local authorities to help vulnerable people stay well during cold weather and get the help they need within their communities. And we urge anyone with a long-term condition to get a free flu jab from their GP.”